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Ten Steps

Critical Inquiries on Leopardi


Edited By Fabio Camilletti and Paola Cori

This book is a ten-step journey around the thought and poetry of the most sensitive Italian visionary of modernity, Giacomo Leopardi, whose contribution to Western thought has been acclaimed by admirers from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche to Benjamin. A variety of readings, moving between different disciplines and approaches – including film studies, psychoanalysis, and queer theory – shed new light on Leopardi’s fascinating and at the same time epistemologically radical compound of poetic imagination and philosophical complexity. An advocate of an ultra-philosophy, which aims to negotiate the fracture opened in Western imagination by the irrecoverable loss of ancient «illusions», Leopardi’s thought seems more relevant than ever in the post-human era, offering an (un)timely meditation on desire, suffering, and imagination as the foundational features of humanity.
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4. Philological Cosmopolitanism and European Nationalisms: The Background to Leopardi’s Sanskrit References in the ‘Zibaldone’


← 120 | 121 → DAVID GIBBONS

4 Philological Cosmopolitanism and European Nationalisms: The Background to Leopardi’s Sanskrit References in the ‘Zibaldone’

Several critics over the years have seen parallels between some of Leopardi’s writings and a variety of traditions that may broadly be described as Indian. To take merely the most famous example, in ‘L’infinito’ De Sanctis saw what he termed ‘la voluttà del Bramino, poeta anche lui, la voluttà dello sparire individuale nella vita universale’.1 Such a comparative approach has led also, quite naturally, to more positivist scholarship which seeks to pinpoint the possible sources of Leopardi’s Indian knowledge with greater accuracy. The second volume published as part of the ‘Leopardi e l’Oriente’ project in 1998, for example, contains a variety of essays cataloguing the Oriental resources available to Leopardi, including the Indian ones, in the aim of providing ‘certain data’ with which to interpret his interest in Oriental cultures, on the grounds that ‘le sue opinioni intorno all’Oriente non erano frutto di “immaginazione”, ma derivavano da testimonianze di tradizioni e memorie’.2 However, despite impressive research in this area, by Daniele ← 121 | 122 → Maggi in particular, the aim of providing certainties has resulted rather in what the scholars themselves call ‘possibilities’.3 If anything, such work suggests that the relationship between what Leopardi read, and said, on the subject of India, and the ‘Indian’ effect that his writings might have, is unlikely to be straightforward.

Leopardi, indeed, said relatively little about India. There are perhaps three...

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